Community Involvement Balances Work Life

Posted on September 6, 2010

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For many in the design and construction industry, we have a little more time to breathe lately. One aspect I strive to maintain involvement in regardless of workload is community involvement.

For the past five years I have participated in Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. (JCCI) activities, and in particular, their leadership development component called JCCI Forward. JCCI Forward focuses on issues that affect the cross-section of 25-45 year olds in greater northeast Florida. Through its skills trainings, mystery guest lunches and food for thought discussions, JCCI Forward gathers community experts and engaged professionals to discuss topics, study issues and positively effect change.

The centerpiece of JCCI Forward is its issue forum series. Each year Forward’s forums committee chooses a topic submitted by the community for study, three in fact. The topics are fashioned into miniature learning laboratories that are 1/3 presentation, 1/3 q & a, and 1/3 group discussion. Revolving around the consensus process, the group learns from the resource speakers (panelists) and then comes to an agreement about germane points to be built upon.

After one, five or eight weeks, the knowledge gained is discussed and an action plan is formulated. The action plan takes what was learned and creates a unique way to use what was learned for the benefit of the community; sometimes this is on the personal / professional level, but other times it takes the form of local government lobbying, task forces, non-profit start-ups, resource gathering, and information dissemination for public education.

This year I am privileged to be the Action Planning chair for JCCI Forward. In one evening, I engage the forum attendees to establish a departure point for the group. I help guide the group through a brainstorm on how they can put their newly-gathered knowledge to work.

Each forum is a different experience and there are no preconceptions to where the action plan will go. At the end of the exercise, attendees have galvanized to the point where they have openly shared, debated, discussed, agreed and now forge ahead with whatever they feel is most important for the community under their own direction and energy.

JCCI Forward is a rewarding way for me to spend my time with the community, but also to learn. I have been fortunate to have learned invaluable skills that have helped me at my day job, soft skills that are hard to practice and perfect, like motivating volunteers and how to run an effective meeting. My time with Forward keeps me fresh, helps me hone existing skills and learn new ones.

My example is one of hundreds of organizations I can spend my time with, but time that forms a symbiotic relationship: I get as much out of it as I put into it. Whether building houses with a widely recognized, national group like Habitat for Humanity or working with a small, local non-profit, volunteering is a good way to be active, expand your network and company brand, improve yourself and your community.

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